The 2016 MLB season is only weeks from ending, and Scout.com is already taking a step forward towards 2017. As scouts have been assessing amateur talent, so have our analyst. Below is another look at the future stars of baseball, and what makes them so intriguing.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/scouting/story/1716402-mlb-draft-top-50-prospec...In the second edition of five, Scout.com analyst, Taylor Blake Ward, gives you an in depth look at the top amateur talent for the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. Here's a look at prospects 31-40 in our Top 50 Prospects countdown.
40. Shane Baz, Right-Handed Pitcher, Concordia Lutheran HS (CA); Committed: Texas Christian
The Houston region has produced six first-round prep picks since 2009, and Shane Baz is looking to become the next. Scouts have been impressed across the nation, seeing Baz perform in showcases and perform well. The outings have been so well, scouts have began to compare his arsenal to that of fellow Houston-born pitcher, Shelby Miller.
A two-way player, Baz has solidified himself as a pitcher over being a third-baseman. Though there is power potential at the plate, especially with room to fill out his large frame at six-foot-three and 190 pounds, he'll be a pitcher. Scouts just can't get enough of his true Texas mentality on the mound. He's a high-tempo competitor who attacks with his fastball and has shown the ability to repeat, mixing speeds and using his off-speed to create outs.
Baz's fastball tends to sit in the low 90's with tailing action, touching 95. He attacks while commanding to the corners with it, and elevates to change the eye level. He does possess a mid 70's curve and changeup with fade, both that he shows some feel for and will be average offerings with development. The pitch that leaves scouts drooling is his cutter/slider. With the ability to add some and take some off, it's a mid to high 80's offering that has changed over time. There's sense that he's focused more on turning it into a slider with vertical movement, but when it's really on, it has premium velocity with tilt and is upwards of 89 MPH with serious spin.
39. Kyle Hurt, Right-Handed Pitcher, Torrey Pines HS (CA); Committed: Southern California
Kirk McCaskill went from a college hockey player, to a 12-year Major League veteran, to a high school head coach. McCaskill has turned the Torrey Pines program, in San Diego, into a power house of development for future professional players. Kyle Hurt is next in line.
There's been headwind of Hurt since he was in middle school, working in the high 70's. He grew to become a six-foot-four inch, 200+ pound pitching machine. Scouts have been able to watch Hurt develop over the course of multiple years, and seen him play with and against premiere players for years. Over the years, Hurt has surrounded himself with friends such as Nick Allen and other upcoming draft talents, and learned how to pitch in all kinds of different scenarios and teams are ready to throw him into the every day mix of professional ball.
Hurt's projectability and pitchability are his most promising tools; throwing strikes, mixing speeds, and working side-to-side with his true three pitch mix, all from repeatable delivery and deceptive, low-effort 3/4 arm angle. He works his fastball east-to-west in the bottom of the zone, primarily sitting 89-93, but can reach back and flash up to 93-94 and even 95, with late arm-side life. Hurt has shown a feel for his curveball with shape, and it could be an above-average pitch with time. The best item Hurt offers is his changeup, with separates from his fastball by 10-15 MPH. He has an excellent feel for his change, that looks nearly like a screwball due to it's large tumble. He works it against both righties and lefties to both sides of the plate, with strong command making him one of the more polished pitchers in the draft.
Scouts are concerned that Hurt won't land with their organization. It's not due to talent or money, but the fact that he truly does want to attend the University of Southern California. His long-time friend, Nick Allen, is committed to USC, along with multiple top-tier draft prospects, and the group feels they can create a legacy at school, while only lifting their draft stock in the future. Only time will tell whether Hurt lands in Los Angeles on campus, or with a Major League organization, and the time is set - June.
38. Evan Skoug, Catcher, Texas Christian
Professionalism is something that can be taught, but it only helps when it comes naturally. From the time he was a teenager, Evan Skoug has been ready for the professional life. Putting extra time in the gym, in the cages and on the field, Skoug is doing everything it takes to reach the next level. Off the field, Skoug puts forth time to help with cancer patients and giving it back. He's ready for the high life.
The draft process is nothing new for Evan Skoug, but should come much easier than it did coming out of high school. As a prep senior, Skoug dealt with the pressure of scouts breathing down his neck at every game, being forced to make a large life decision, all while dealing with mononucleosis. Better known as mono, it takes it's toll on your body, and Skoug has made sure to take away stress and put healthier foods into his diet to make that an item of the past. The life decision made landed him at TCU where he's been developing his skill set to become a better overall player.
The roll of leader has been given to Skoug, and he's taken it in strides. Being a mentor to one of the future top draft prospects, Luken Baker, the young catcher has helped lead him to reach his potential, as well as leading the pitching staff with his strong competitive attitude, scouts are raving about what he offers in many ways on and off the field.
The highlight tool with Skoug is how power potential from the left-side, stemming from a strong frame and heavy load in his swing. Though he'll swing-and-miss against higher velocities due to a lengthy swing, strikeout rates remain low due to his ability to keep the barrel through the zone with explosive bat speed and not allow his swing to get erratic. Skoug does have a sound approach at the plate, getting himself into hitter's counts, but his patience will be tested against professional hitters who work him away, but adjustments have not been a problem yet.
Defensively, there's work to be done. Skoug has a perfect catching frame at six-foot and 200 pounds, with broad shoulders and massive arms. Those big arms can get in the way of his mechanics at times though, as despite a strong arm, his release and length in throwing the ball have allowed runners to take advantage. He has shown raw tools that would suggest he can be a fine throwing catcher, but is has yet to translate. There's work to be done in receiving and blocking as well, which will be a key mark to his draft stock.
37. J.J. Matijevic, Infielder, Arizona
Hidden behind a loaded Wildcats offense, J.J. Matijevic is ready to be a breakout offensive presence in a draft class that is in dire need of college bats. After a slow start in the Cape Cod, Matijevic exploded back onto the scene with All-Star numbers supporting his toolset.
After winning the only Triple Crown ever in the Western Pennsylvania region in high school, the Red Sox took a chance on the athletic shortstop in the 22nd round. He opted for Arizona, where challenges arose. However, time has shown, Matijevic has been able to make the adjustments through his young collegiate career to not only help himself, but help his team to the College World Series.
Always known as an advanced bat, Matijevic has an explosive swing from the left-side. The load and ability to utilize his lower half have shown above-average power potential, helped by a swift and smooth line drive swing. The power numbers have not shown up just yet, but Matijevic has shown good extension at the end of his swing and added a bit of loft which should see the home run totals rise. Matijevic does have a strong approach, but is still learning to make adjustments. With time, he should become an all around plus hitter with plus power potential.
Whoever selects Matijevic in the draft will have to make the decision of where to put him in the field. He's shown diversity, going from a high school shortstop, to a corner infielder, to second baseman. He spent his freshman year at first base, but was nowhere near the prototypical first baseman. A two-sport athlete in high school, Matijevic has shown above-average athleticism, and suits well at second or third, and could be tested in the corner outfield positions.
36. Hagen Danner, Right-Handed Pitcher/Catcher, Huntington Beach HS (CA); Committed: UCLA
Hagen Danner is walking the streets of his California beach community with celebrity status attached. From the time he was 12-year-old, hitting game-tying home runs in the Little League World Series, Huntington Beach has recognized him as a star baseball player. Every team Danner has pitched for has put him in the scenario of big games, anywhere from the local to international scale. The high-life has been around for Danner for many years, as have the scouts.
Since he was a youngster, Danner has drawn scouts to each of his outings to not only see his premier raw stuff, but watch him develop. All the while, the teen has remained calm and composed on the mound and constantly delivered. Off the field, Danner is one the best known draft prospects due to his outgoing nature, and constant ability to make friends with fellow draft prospects across the nation, all of whom, stick around to watch Danner pitch.
Danner works with a high arching delivery that he repeats well due to his fluid and relaxed mechanics. He maintains a consistent release point on all of his pitches, which give him a step up on the competition. Danner throws his fastball in the low 90's, reaching 93-94 at times, working the bottom of the zone east-to-west. The drawing tool is his above-average, swing-and-miss, curveball. With late diving action and a 12-6 break, Danner throws his deuce with confidence, and has been his biggest asset in proving to be one of the nation's top prep strikeout pitchers. He's shown a good feel for his changeup with fade, which registers in at average with potential for more. Command has been shaky at times, but is not concerning to scouts as they've seen him stay within the general range of where he hopes to deliver.
On the flip side of the ball, Danner has shown tools as a promising hitting catcher. His swing stays through the zone allowing for consistent contact, and when he is able to get the barrel to the ball, his strength shows promise of power. Behind the plate, Danner has been given praise for his all around ability and of course, strong arm, but consensus remains that his calling card seems to be on the mound. As he fills out into his six-foot-two frame, scouts believe more arm strength and higher velocities will come, as well as strength at the plate.
35. Pavin Smith, First-Baseman/Outfielder, Virginia
A common thread in baseball, you trade power for contact. In the case of Pavin Smith, you get both with strikeout rates being drastically low. The image of a future middle of the order bat with power potential without forcing outs at the plate has drawn scouts to see very high value in Smith.
Smith has struck out in just 10.8% of his plate appearances in college, with a .488 slugging percentage. Over the last five years, no Major League player has matched those numbers with the closest being Victor Martinez at 10.2 K% and .464 SLG%. If you go back 10 years, only Albert Pujols and Vlad Guerrero have better numbers. Of course, that's at the college level and not Major League level, but in short, Smith is already a pure hitter at the amateur level ready to make a quick impact.
Smith stays pretty compact in his swing, keeping a simple swing plane and utilizing his lower half and natural strength to gain his power. He shows good balance in his approach, flashing to the aggressive side but shows the discipline to be a selective hitter, waiting on his pitch. An advanced hitter since his prep days, scouts are still waiting to see all of his power potential to show in his large, six-foot-three, 210 pound frame, but with his natural strength and swing should allow for 20+ home run potential.
Smith has slightly below-average speed, and his abilities in the field may keep him from being a top pick despite being such a pure hitter. Following his freshman year, just weeks after Virginia won the College World Series, Smith had Tommy John surgery limiting him to just designated hitting in the early stages of his sophomore season. He has enough athleticism to play in left field, but seems best suited as a first baseman with a strong arm.
34. Blayne Enlow, Right-Handed Pitcher, St. Amant HS (LA); Committed: Louisiana State
The last time a right-handed prep pitcher from Louisiana went in the first 50 picks of an amateur draft, you have to look all the way back to 1999. If his draft stock continues to rise, Blayne Enlow could break that 18-year drought in 2017.
Scouts have been enamored by multiple stages of growth in Enlow. When they first saw him, he had the projectable height of six-foot-four, working in the high 80's, but weighed only around 150 pounds. Enlow has since added 20-30 pounds and over five miles per hour on his fastball. Enlow has also shown added adjustments to improve his command, and has shown a better approach in attacking hitters. All of this has turned Enlow into one of the highest rising draft prospects in the upcoming draft.
Working with a loose arm and repeatable low-effort mechanics, Enlow throws from a 3/4 angle with quick and easy arm action. His fastball sits in the low 90's with late sinking life, ranging 90-94 with regularity. Enlow snaps off one of the best off-speed offerings in the draft, a sharp swing-and-miss, late-breaking 11-5 slider. He can take some off of it, giving a more diving action and power curve-break. Keeping a consistent arm speed and release point, Enlow has flashed an above-average changeup with fade that he has a good feel for.
33. Drew Rasmussen, Right-Handed Pitcher, Oregon State
In 2014, the Diamondbacks took a flier on Drew Rasmussen, knowing there was a slim chance of signing him away from Oregon State in the 39th round. In 2017, teams will once again likely take a flier on one of the top college arms in the nation. If not for a torn ulnar collateral ligament, Rasmussen would be the key focus of the Pac-12. The injury and Tommy John surgery will leave the Oregon State pitcher sidelined for the majority, if not the entirety, of his junior season.
Rasmussen was the highlight piece in one of the Beavers most historic moments as a freshman, when he hurled a 103 pitch perfect game - the only in school history - while striking out 10. The masterpiece was one of multiple marks in his first two years at Oregon State, where his performances were among the best in the nation. Though numbers are hardly a key to the draft, there are two glaring numbers when it comes to Raz - .211 opposing average and .277 opposing slugging percentage. Guys just don't hit against the Beavers' ace.
Despite not having the height of most star prospects at six-foot-one, Rasmussen has always been considered a big-bodied pitcher with his broad shoulders and muscular build. A real competitor, he attacks with his mid 90's fastball that ranges 90-96 that shows sink, and has been upwards of 97 in relief roles. The bread-and-butter of Rasmussen's arsenal is his ability to mix and find the right timing to utilize his changeup, which dives to the bottom of the zone. His slider flashes plus at times, and he's learning to throw it to both sides of the plate giving it signs of being an above-average swing-and-miss offering. Rasmussen throws a high amount of strikes, but is still learning to improve the command of his off-speed offerings.
After throwing three innings against Cal in late March, Rasmussen left the game with what was considered back pain - something he'd been dealing with the entire week. The result ended up being a ligament tear in his throwing elbow, which put him in the scenario of missing the rest of the year due to Tommy John surgery. There had been no prior concerns or history regarding his arm, and was a shock to many. If Rasmussen doesn't pitch this year, scouts and organizations will have to rely on past reports and his draft stock will fall quickly. If he does pitch and shows that his development is still on pace, teams may see exactly what they saw last, and he could jump into the first round with ease.
32. Tanner Burns, Right-Handed Pitcher, Decatur HS (AL); Committed: Auburn
Braxton Garrett broke a nine-year silence of first-round prep pitchers from Alabama last draft. It seems that "The Heart of Dixie" will produce a first-round teenager in back-to-back years for the first time in a decade, with Tanner Burns jumping up draft boards. However, the road may not be as easy as it sounds for the promising pitcher.
Swapping commitments from Alabama to Auburn caused quite a stir in the region, but it all came at Burns' personal choice. With the departure of Mitch Gaspard, Burns opted to change his college destination the very day Greg Goff was announced as the new head coach of Alabama. The lure of 28 drafted pitchers in 10 years reeled the Alabama teen to pursue his college dreams with Butch Thompson and Auburn. It was a simple choice; go to where the best pitching coach is and learn how to pitch like a pro.
The pro package may not be seen at Samford Field though, as his arsenal is enough to draw him into the early stages of the draft. Helped with easy and compact arm action, Burns comes equipped with an explosive fastball with some sink that sits 93-96 that he pounds the zone with. Repeating his three/quarter delivery, Burns works in his tight curveball with hard biting action, a plus pitch. Replicating arm speed, he shows a feel for his changeup that can be registered at a plus with development. The raw tools of working quick, pounding the zone, and having the potential of three plus pitches leaves many scouts hoping they can pull him away from his commitment to Butch Thompson.
31. David Peterson, Left-Handed Pitcher, Oregon
Last spring, Oregon had a three-headed monster in their rotation. All southpaws, all tall, all with explosive stuff. Matt Krook and Cole Irvin are now gone to the professional ranks, leaving David Peterson as the remaining stud of the Ducks' rotation. Ready for the lime-life, Peterson has shown just as high, if not a higher ceiling, than the two aforementioned.
A freak basketball accident, leaving Peterson with a broken right fibula, took the majority of the southpaw's senior season in high school. If not for the broken leg, Peterson may have never stepped foot on campus and been pitching as a professional. If that was the scenario, Peterson may have never met Jason Dietrich. The brand new pitching coach at Oregon has been known for his ability to fix control problems, which is something Peterson needed assistance with. The immediate connection showed over the summer, and should only improve in Peterson's draft eligible year.
Command will be the key to Peterson's success at the next level, but in college, he's been beating hitters with his low to mid 90's fastball with plus sink and arm-side run, helping him work away from right-handed hitters. The southpaw likes to work inside on lefties with his fastball, allowing the run and sink to break back into the zone, jamming hitters or making them stare at strikes on the inner half. Working from a low 3/4 arm slot, Peterson has shown good movement on all his pitches, with his fastball being the best of his trio. His best off-speed offering is his above-average low 80's changeup that he works against both righties and lefties. He works in a big-breaking curveball with a dipping break that he's shown a feel for, but still needs to be refined.
Peterson has always been an upside arm due to his large frame and big arsenal. However, scouts believe his long limbs have been the key attribute to his biggest knock, command. Once Peterson learns to control his limbs a bit more, and capitalize on his extension, the ceiling sky rockets. Scouts also believe that Peterson is still trying to regain confidence in his body after the leg break, which has impacted his rhythm on the mound. Small things like this could be fixed and contribute to his future success, which leaves organizations desiring a future with Peterson at the forefront.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher and Draft Analyst for Scout.com. For more updates on the MLB Draft, follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.